5 Things We Learned From Mark Zuckerberg During Day 1 of His Congressional Testimony

The questioning continues Wednesday

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent several hours answering questions today from dozens of U.S. senators. Getty Images
Headshot of Marty Swant

This afternoon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent several hours answering questions from dozens of U.S. senators in Washington, D.C. The questions varied from explaining the basics of ad-tech to answering whether Facebook would support bills strengthening privacy laws.

Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress comes nearly a month after Facebook banned the British data firm Cambridge Analytica after it allegedly improperly accessed the data of as many as 87 million users. Questioning is expected to continue for another couple of hours with another entire day of testimony scheduled for Wednesday before the House of Representatives.

Here are a few of the highlights from Tuesday:

Some lawmakers are considering regulation

Several lawmakers today suggested Facebook might need to be regulated in order to protect consumers’ privacy. While some suggested that Facebook needs to prove it can regulate itself, others tried to get Zuckerberg to commit to supporting future legislation that would let users opt in to providing data rather than its current opt-out model. One example of that is the proposed CONSENT Act, introduced today by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. The bill would require opt-in consent from users before a company could use, share or sell personal information. It would also require companies to notify users of all data collected and shared and notify them if there’s ever a breach. Zuckerberg said he agrees in general with some regulation and even offered to provide a list of ways it might make sense.

Lawmakers don’t all understand how Facebook works

A lot of questions today revolved around how data is collected, used or deleted. Several lawmakers suggested Facebook sells user data, but Zuckerberg said the company doesn’t. Zuckerberg and lawmakers were often at odds about the idea of how users are able or not able to consent to how their data is used.

Robert Mueller has questioned Facebook

Zuckerberg was asked if anyone at Facebook had been subpoenaed or interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is currently investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. At first, Zuckerberg briefly hesitated before saying yes. He then clarified that he wasn’t sure about the subpoenas but confirmed some employees had been interviewed. (He said he was not among those interviewed.)

Facebook hasn’t thrown out the idea of a paid model

At least two lawmakers followed up on COO Sheryl Sandberg’s comments last week suggesting that Facebook would need a paid model if users want to opt out of ads. Zuckerberg did not directly answer whether it’s currently exploring a paid model. However, he didn’t totally shut down the idea, saying there will “always be a version” of the platform that’s free to use.

Wall Street was happy with Zuckerberg’s performance

While some wondered how the interview-averse Zuckerberg might perform in front of a few dozen lawmakers, Facebook’s stock price jumped during the hearing, increasing 4.5 percent to close at $164.98 per share.

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.